A Father’s Thoughts on Bullies

As a father, I’ve been concerned with how schools manage the issue of bullying.  The school system and I agree that bullying is wrong and we likewise agree that it shouldn’t be tolerated.  We even agree that the first response of a child being bullied shouldn’t just be to haul off and smack the problem child.  But where we disagree iswhether a child has any right to self-defense.  Is there a point at which achild can actually stand up for himself when the other avenues have failed?

We’ve taught our three children that they’re to do three things if they feel they’re being bullied.  First, tell the kid to stop doing whatever’s creating the problem.  Second, simply walk away.  If the first two steps fail, then find and tell someone in authority.  Many of these instances occur in places where there is adult control and it’s the adults’ responsibility to prevent these problems.  Schools are particularly sensitive to the issue and will actively take measures to monitor, control and discipline kids who bully.

Unfortunately, adults aren’t always around.

I was raised with the understanding that you might have to fight back.  We’ve taught our kids that if the three avoidance steps fail, they should defend themselves.  So I was surprised some years ago to hear that the elementary school guidance counselor had asked my son’s class this question:  How many of your parents have said that it’s okay to fight back if you’re being bullied?  My son and several classmates raised their hands.  Your parents are wrong.  If anybody is caught throwing punches or kicking somebody, even a bully, they’ll be punished the same as the person they say is bullying them.  One of the kids asked what would happen if they were outnumbered with their backs to the wall and had no choice?  The response was the same.  The counselor did provide the class with strategies that could be used if they were being bullied but the kids were left scratching their heads.  This, along with a comment that was wildly misconstrued by my son, led to a phone call to determine what was said and in this instance, the counselor’s original question was indeed correct.

I understand the situation in which schools find themselves.  Society’s violence level has spilled into schools and what we settled with fists is now handled with weapons.  If a child denies being a bully to the parents, today’s parents are more likely to support them even at the threat of litigation.  Combine these factors and school systems simply find it easier to adopt a zero-tolerance policy that punishes all equally, regardless of guilt or circumstances.  It’s the juvenile equivalent of the Second Amendment argument that when all guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

So what can you do?  A bully will take over a child’s life and the bully must be handled one way or another.  Our kids have had to contend with multiple bullies, including a troubled first-grader who actually contracted with a fourth-grader to attack and beat up my first grade son.  In that instance, our son immediately went to the playground aide and all three wound up in the principal’s office to settle the matter.

  • First, pay attention and decide whether or not there is a bullying problem.  Some kids will share it but others will hide the situation. Learn the signs of bullying.  Likewise, listen to the names that get thrown around by the kids and the context in which you’re hearing them and then take an opportunity to visit the school, even if it means taking time out of work.
  • Second, find out your school system’s policy on bullying.  How do they address cases of bullying?
  • Third, if you think that your child has a problem, contact the school and speak with the teacher and principal.  To their credit, they will take it seriously and listen.  Tell them what you’re hearing and ask what they know.  What about the suspected child or children?  Any other issues?  Ask them to investigate and give them an opportunity to respond.  When the teacher knows that there’s a problem, you’ll generally have a respite window as greater attention is paid. 
  • Fourth, follow up quickly and work out an action plan.  Then share it with your child and pay attention.  If the bullying continues, follow up with the school again.  Delegate upwards if the problem persists.
  • If the situation does continue, decide what your response is.  In our case, a bully took over our other son’s second grade year and despite multiple conversations with the teacher and the bully’s mother – Dad wasn’t around – the problems continued.  After our son was bullied again, I simply told the principal that my son would defend himself accordingly.  The bullying did decrease afterwards and I then made it a point to share with other teachers and principals – when the need arose – that my kids had the option to defend themselves if the adults didn’t resolve the problem.  My wife and I made a conscious decision – and shared it with the kids – that if all other approaches failed, we’d back them if they got in trouble for fighting.

There might be consequences at school, but we’d work with it and they’d have no consequences with us.  Because when the kids are adults,they will have to manage these issues themselves.


PracticalDad’s Shopping For School Clothing and Supplies

There was an office supply store commercial several years ago that showed glum children shopping for school supplies while their father rode on the shopping cart with the Xmas tune It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year playing on the soundtrack.  Spend significant amounts of time with kids in the summer and you’re liable to agree with this assessment.  But before you can get to that point, you have to perform some true drudgery in getting ready for that first day.  You can walk into the store and start spending, or you can actually save some money by planning ahead on what you need and that’s the drudgery.

School shopping consists of two parts – the paper and school supplies themselves, and then the dreaded clothing.  The school supplies are relatively easy since the materials generally don’t change from one year to the next and you can actually stock up on really good sales, keeping the materials stored for years while you slowly exhaust them.  But the tricky part is outfitting your child’s clothing because of growth, and in the case of many girls, fashion changes. 

School Supplies

Various stores will start rolling out the back-to-school sales in the first week of August and there will be all manner of stuff available.  Some will even run super specials with items for the dime during a specified period and it’s tempting to run in and then pat yourself on the back for all of your savings.  But there are several things to consider.

  • Just because school supplies are for sale doesn’t mean that your child(ren) will necessarily need those particular school supplies.  You might see all manner of items in the Sunday circulars and some office supply stores will even have generic lists available of what items are required for different grades in a particular school district.  But the reality is that there can be variances within school districts and even amongst teachers.  We’ve been burned on several occasions and at the elementary school level, now wait for the introductory letter from the teacher to see what he or she wants our child to bring.  Some things are a given, such as backpacks and crayons, but there can be differences.
  • If there’s a great sale on truly utilitarian items – yellow high-lighters and lined notebook paper, for instance – then consider buying in quantity and then storing them until they’re finally exhausted.  We’ve got reams of notebook paper, two pocket folders and highlighters in the basement and just feed off of them.  But be sure to take stock of what’s in storage before spending money needlessly.
  • When you get the items home, sequester them so that excitable kids don’t disperse them all over hell and half of Georgia.
  • Pay attention to the receipts, especially if there’s an item on it that can be rebated.  This is where women have it over on men since they’re able to get away with purses; I’m able to bend gender roles in multiple shapes as the need arises but I’m not going to spend my time correcting people that I’m carrying a satchel and not a man-purse.  Thank you very much.

School Clothing

  • Before you even worry about shopping, ascertain what clothing you already have and that’s especially the case if you’re using hand-me-down clothing from others.  With two boys, we have plenty of clothing from friends flowing through the house and it’s made a significant dent in the clothes spending.  That means that you’ll have to physically cull through the clothing articles and dispose of obviously small items while setting aside others to be tried on.  Once that’s done, then you know what you’ll need.
  • Have a sense of what the school’s clothing policy is so that you can eliminate needless argument from the child or teen.  If your kid attends a school with a uniform policy, you’re golden in that regards. 
  • Be prepared to spend the better part of a day in shopping for clothing.  If your kids are younger, be prepared to break the shopping into several separate increments.  In our case, we wrap the shopping into other events that keep it tolerable for the kids – lunch at the food court, browsing at the book store or a stop at the music/video store.
  • If time is an issue – as we were shopping for Youngest’s blue jeans while Eldest was at soccer – then simply purchase clothing of the size needed and then try it on at home.  In Youngest’s case, he knows that he’ll try on jeans after school and I’ll return it tomorrow night for a refund.  Stores are willing to let people take things home to try on and return provided the tags and receipt are presented at return.  Again, keep the receipt.  If your mate can keep a grocery receipt in her purse for nine months, then you can keep the thing for a few days.  And DO NOT remove any of the labels or the items will be unreturnable.
  • Be ready for commentary from the kids as they age.  I was surprised to find that kids in elementary school are concerned about whether they’re perceived as wearing tighty-whities  and granny pants.  It makes things stressful but it can be entertaining as they age and you see where their tastes lie.

Preparing for school isn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing but if you consider what you’re doing, that time spent doesn’t have to be miserable either.

And for Pete’s sake, don’t lose the receipt.

Does My Kid Need Deodorant Already?

When people discuss puberty, it might come across as almost an overnight event – girls have their first period and develop breasts while boys have two days of cracked voices and then spend the next two years in the bathroom.  But the reality is that puberty is a lengthy process that comes on gradually and lasts for years.  While it generally starts full bore in the early teens, there is no definitive time that it begins for any particular person and some will begin much earlier while a few start at an older age.  However, one of the common precursors to puberty is the onset of body odor and that should serve as notice as your child’s body is starting the road to Puberty.

Children can sweat when they’re very little, but body odor is a result of activation and increase in the sweat glands as the child’s body chemistry starts to morph.  You might finally note a discernible body odor after active play or at the end of the day and if it is, then it’s likely that your child is near time for a deodorant.  If you want to verify whether there’s actual body odor, simply take a quick sniff of the dirty shirts in the laundry; it might sound rude but that’s all part of parenthood.  It isn’t necessary to sniff their pits and not the least bit helpful to make smartmouth remarks about it; kids are exquisitely concerned with their social status and anything that indicates that they’ll be unpopular or the potential butt of jokes is more frightening than a Wes Craven film.

If you think that body odor is now going to become an issue, then there are several things to consider.

  • Is your child unaware of it and regardless, how do you wish to broach the issue?  Kids can fear anything that threatens their social status and when you discuss it, play up the fact that this is all part of the process of changing from child to adult.  You can also reassure them that there are things that can be done to manage things so that it isn’t an issue.
  • If there are other concerns, such as a very early onset of odor, certainly contact your family physician and schedule a checkup.  While it’s not common, there are occasionally other circumstances that are the catalyst for body odor.
  • Can the issue be addressed simply by more thorough bathing or have you moved into the realm of products that mask or control the odor?
  • If your child is going to need a personal hygiene product, do you want it to be an antiperspirant or a deodorant?  The two aren’t the same as each approaches the issue of body odor from a different perspective.  An antiperspirant actually contains chemicals in the formulary that serve to block the pores through which sweat comes so that if there is no sweating, there isn’t any odor.  A deodorant serves to control the odor by having antiseptic compounds in the formulary that kill the bacteria that can cause the odor; a deodorant doesn’t actually block the pores.
  • A child’s body can have the same allergic reaction to an unfamiliar deodorant or antiperspirant as a new food for an infant or toddler.  Be aware of complaints about itching or pain after it’s first used and consider taking some looks for visible skin changes at or around the areas being treated.  Start the process first by using a product that doesn’t have any fragrance, whether it’s a mass market product that’s unscented or a product that is touted as natural or organic.  If there are no problems and your child wants it – and you allow it – then you can move on to the scented products. 
  • If your child is using a scented product, expect to have to educate the kid about the appropriate amount of deodorant to use.  Kids typically have no calibration for anything and things are either all or none, so your house is liable to smell like Axe until things are brought under control.  In our case, my wife entered our house through the front door and immediately walked out same door because of the reek of Axe deodorant wafting from Middle’s bedroom.  Our son decided to treat all of his clothing by spraying his drawers and closet with the Axe body spray and it took days for his room to clear the smell.

Dealing with body odor is like any other bodily function issue.  It’s neither gross nor is it a magical precursor to be celebrated as a marker to adulthood.  But it is an early indicator that your child is developing and a clue to start looking for other signs of pubescence. 

Staying Near the Sick Kid

You’ve got a full slate of things to do and many of them are outside when one of the kids suddenly becomes ill.  He lies down in bed, but do you still go outside to work in the yard?

That’s the situation facing me now and frankly, I’ll chuck the outside work and leave it go until later.  Yes, there’s always the baby monitor if the child is smaller and God knows that I used it.  But when the child is sick – even if only sleeping – I’d rather forego the monitor and just stay close.  Kids will come to physically need you less and less as they age, and this sick one is a young teen, but there’s still the child’s sense of knowing that he’s not alone.  Additionally, if there’s nausea and vomiting involved, I believe that kids do feel better knowing that someone’s there to help.  And in the worst case scenario, I’m nearby in the event of a real emergency and can respond immediately.  The other aspect is my own peace of mind knowing that I wasn’t unattentive in the event of trouble.

So instead, I’ll take some moments to write and put off the outdoor work until later.

This Father’s Fear

All fathers have and must contend with fear and it varies from one to another.  Will my child be assaulted or kidnapped?  Will her current crop of friends lead to trouble down the road?  How am I going to afford college and still have some money set aside for my own old age?  What do I owe my children versus myself?

I’ve considered all of these questions at one time or another, but the fear that truly haunts me doesn’t pertain to my children’s present, but actually their future.  Anybody with half a lick of sense knows that things with America simply aren’t right at the moment.  Yet I know enough of national and family history to know that bad times come but then are replaced with better times.  I know that my maternal great-great-great grandfather survived the entire Civil War – and Gettysburg – without a scratch.  I know that two great uncles survived the trenches of the First World War and their mother died of sepsis from a hand cut in the kitchen.  My own parents were both children of the Great Depression and both my uncle and father served in – and were actively shot at – in two separate wars.

Bad times come.  Bad times go.  There was usually a sense during those days and years of fear that there would again be something of value and hope if things could be seen through to their conclusion.  Peace, prosperity, real hope and not the faux kind peddled by various politicians – of both parties.

But I fear that my children face a future in which bad times come, and then stay.  That if decisions aren’t made and appropriate policies followed, that they will have no opportunity to live with the possibility of betterment and advancement for themselves and their children.  And the data of the past two or more decades shows that the income disparities between folks have become so marked that there is the real risk of a permanent underclass and a gutted middle-class at the mercy of an oligarchy that rules for itself. 

This was brought forcefully home in an article entitled Who Rules America?  The article is lengthy, detailed and the numbers and charts leave little room for doubt.  While there has been much written about income disparity, the synopsis presented shows that the wealth in the past two decades has shifted markedly to the wealthy so that the top 1% of the wage-earners possess a vastly disproportionate amount of the wealth.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist that believes that a secret cabal planned all of this in 1977, but I do believe that there are some exceptionally astute people who realized the implications of certain policies and then hi-jacked these to their own ends.  Changes in lobbying standards?  Let’s exploit them.  Changes in financial regulations?  Let’s exploit them.  The failure of the government to actively monitor and pursue those who broke or manipulated the law led to a period of laissez-faire on steroids in which anything has occurred and will continue to do so.

And the super-wealthy, who aren’t stupid and are able to employ even smarter consultants, understand this and will advance themselves at the expense of the common wealth.

So what do I do apart from rail at the television and listen to Glenn Beck?

  • Spend more time examining the internet and exploring alternative information sources.  Lurk and watch and determine what is legitimate versus on-the-fringe and then pass this information along to your neighbors.
  • Ask whether a proposed policy or solution benefits all or really only a few?  For instance, who truly benefits from an extension of the Bush tax cuts?  Is their extension going to set the stage for a stable economic future?
  • Actually call or write your Congressman, as simplistic as that sounds.  They do pay attention to numbers and respond to the varying windspeeds because that’s what politicians do, unfortunately.
  • Make sure that you talk to your kids about the world around them and fill them in, even if in small doses.  If that means that you have to physically have to turn off the various electronic devices, then do so and talk.  Some of my best moments are in the car or at the dinner table when there’s no screen to distract them.
  • Spend time discussing money with your kids and help them learn good habits.  There are some things that we do poorly here and some other things that we do extraordinarily well. 
  • Re-examine your own personal and family views on consumerism/materialism.  Do you really need to purchase something that was in all probability made in China?  Do you really need to have the newest car?  Can you get by happily with less?  Don’t buy the lie that spending money will help America if most of that money goes to high-end items that are simply made by foreign workers.
  • Ride kids on their grades and make that a fight if necessary.  With three kids, I understand that not everybody wants to study; but that is a fight in which I will routinely engage just because it has to happen.
  • Stop accepting things at face value just because Limbaugh, Beck and Franken say that it’s so.  Understand that these outlets thrive on debate and conflict and will continue to encourage it because it’s profitable.
  • In short, question and examine and then press.  Press the politicians and the economists.  Press the children and above all else, press yourselves.

There is unfortunately no easy way out of what’s upon us.  There will be painful sacrifices and considerable angst and economic pain before things are finally settled and I suspect that there will be civil turmoil.  Long-held economic/financial strategies will be overturned.  But I take heart in recognizing that my forefathers have been in the same position and so far, nobody’s shooting at me.

For the record, I think that Glenn Beck is a truly funny guy and I even agree with him sometimes.  But I’m not planning my future based upon his musings and rallies and I no longer listen on a regular basis.  There’s too much else to do.

PracticalDad and Vacation

Family vacations change with the family as it ages and changes.  There’s less obvious work for the parent as kids no longer need to be diapered or constantly watched, but the stress doesn’t completely depart.  The kids now have some of their own interests that compete for family time but still haven’t fully developed the sense that their interest isn’t necessarily the most important.  And there’s some friction as they think that they’re ready for more than a father thinks that they can handle.  The family vacation is a work in progress, evolving with the kids and their growing bodies and interests.

So what are some notes that I made during the past 10 days?

  • Invest in an Auto FM Transmitter that connects an iPod or mp3 to the car stereo for everyone to hear.  Kids have the capacity – especially as they reach the teens – to download an enormous amount of material and many are actually willing to play it for you.  In our case, Eldest, Middle and I each played two selections from our respective devices with the caveat that they had to be appropriate for younger ears and middle-aged sensibilities.  We consequently heard everything from Don McLean’s Miss American Pie  to Psychostick’s This Is Not A Song, It’s A Sandwich and Glee’s cover of Queen’s Somebody to Love.  I’m continually surprised at the variety of music that’s shown up and that’s surprised in a mostly good way.
  • We usually travel with another family whose kids are roughly the same age and our Eldest kids are old enough to do some gallivanting on their own.  Naturally, Youngest wants to tag along and we’ve been fortunate that our combined six kids mesh well together and are willing to be responsible for Youngest.  That said, we try to give the elder kids some freedom without the responsibility of monitoring a youngster and set aside concentrated time to keep Youngest occupied.  When Youngest does move with the older kids, we are explicit with them that he’s with them and they are now responsible so that we can avoid an episode of finger-pointing about a lost child.  Even so, there were several minutes at Monticello when the older kids split up and didn’t verify who had the boy, leading to a PracticalDad wandering the Dependencies at Monticello and working the cellphone furiously.
  • I no longer hit them with all manner of details about what we’re going to see but now concentrate on what I consider to be of the greatest importance that they should know.  Most kids don’t give a rats butt about history and the effects of the French Revolution on Jefferson’s architecture; that will hopefully come with time.  But I do try to give them enough to have a perspective on what they’ll see.  In our case, I wanted the kids to understand that the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was actually a jobs program in the Great Depression.  Why would men live out in the wilderness to build this?  Weren’t they bored?  No – they needed a job and sent the money home to support their families.  It will vary with the family, but too much information and they’ll get the 1000 yard stare.
  • Surprisingly, you still have to monitor discipline and that’s especially the case with teenage boys.  Get several teens together and the tendency will be to insulate themselves from the outside so that they’re not paying attention to others around them.  Texting will occur in inappropriate places and horseplay will erupt around Senior Citizens who can’t afford to get knocked over and it will continue to be an ongoing responsibility for a parent.
  • Understand that  the kids will still continue to feed off of one another and the idiocy quotient can reach astounding levels.  I frankly enjoy them now more than before and that’s perhaps because I realize that the family vacations with all of the kids present are now numbered.  Before, there was no governor on the kids’ collective engine and I felt compelled to provide one but now, let them revel in their goofiness and enjoy it for what it is.

No two vacations are the same and some will be long remembered while others will quickly be forgotten.  Your approach to them will help set the tone for the category that the kids choose.

Do You Write the Site or Does the Site Write You?

There’s a recent saying that you don’t write a blog, but rather, the blog writes you.  My goal has been to post regularly, if not daily, and not turn out anything resembling dreck and I’ve been successful – in production at least – for the past two years.  But three kids make you busy and it’s been that.

I apologize for the recent inactivity – nobody’s died, although I’ve been tempted on two occasions recently – and when things quiet down, will get back to writing as expeditiously as possible.  I plan however, to resume my regular articles in about a week.  Until then, keep the electronics under control and say no to your kids regularly.

All the best,

The PracticalDad

When Should Kids Start to Concentrate On One Sport?

There are any number of sports opportunities available for kids to choose, far more than were available than when I was a kid.  Baseball, football and basketball are now joined by soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, field hockey.  This is further complicated by the option to play at various levels that range from rec league to travel and premier for the most committed players.  The question that my wife and I ask ourselves is at what point we finally tell the kids that they have to finally concentrate on one sport instead of just letting them play a number of them?

It’s a family decision and the answer will vary accordingly.  Frankly, some will read this and probably think that I’m full of crap and that’s fine.  But what are some of the things that we consider when talking about kids and sports?

  • First, if the kid wants to play multiple sports, are they in the same season?  Soccer in our area is played both Fall and Spring, so it’s concurrent with both Football and Baseball.  Our philosophy has been that if the sport options play and practice simultaneously, the child will have to make a choice.  When the kid splits sports in one season, there’s a real possibility that practices and/or games will overlap and the kid won’t be able to make a full commitment to either sport.  There are multiple reasons to compete in a sport and frankly, one of them is to win.  It’s important to learn teamwork and cooperation and it’s especially important to have fun.  But most kids do want to be on a winning team and it’s simply not fair to the rest if a team member isn’t making all of the practices but still expects to play.
  • Second, at what level does the kid want to compete?  Eldest played for a season at a travel team level and decided that rec league’s more to her liking; if she’s happy playing multiple sports at a more relaxed level, then we’re fine with that.
  • Third, how old is the child?  The demands of some sports and coaches are rigorous and it can frankly burn out a child.  It’s a shame to see a child grow to hate a sport because of the demands on a child not yet ready to accept them.
  • Fourth, what’s the impact on the remainder of the family?  Middle asked on multiple occasions – which is one of my criteria to ascertain the seriousness of a kid’s idea – to take up Fencing.  To give fair due, he’s a wiry teen with physical grace, flexibility and quick reflexes.  There’s even a local instructor who competed with the national Soviet team in the 1970s/1980s.  However, the competitions will frequently be out of the area and we’re unwilling to commit that kind of time to competitions in other states.

 Youngest has been clear that he wants to play baseball for the local high school team, which has a history of winning seasons and championships.  If he persists in this desire, we’ll support him; but at his young age, we’re going to let him play other sports until he’s old enough to better understand the demands that serious competition makes.

Spending Time On the Cheap

Like everybody else, we’re cutting back and deleveraging, which is financial-speak for paying down debt.  We’re acutely aware that on top of the mortgage, there are three kids to educate and each of our vans has racked up more than 95,000 miles.  I regularly talk to the kids about money and they know that we’re ratcheting down the spending.  But does that mean that they have to feel poor?

What are some of the things that I’ve recently done with one or more kids to pass the time?

  • Travel several miles to a small river bridge and explore the circa 1830 canal locks, and then explain what a canal is in the first place.
  • Throw a baseball, followed by a football.
  • Throw a baseball that’s been recovered from plant beds that we’re tearing out to relandscape.
  • Watch a lightning storm from the safety of the front porch and debate whether thunder is caused by the lightning itself or the clash of warm and cold air (it’s the latter per my wife, the rocket scientist),
  • Take one or more kids to the community pool.  While membership isn’t free, it costs $200/year for a family of four and if three kids spend 30 days at the pool, then the cost of entertaining each child drops to an average of $2.22 per day.  The more that you go, the cheaper is the average daily cost and if you throw in some snacks from Costco, you’ve got a cheap day of entertainment.
  • Spend an evening just reading, either each within his or her own book or aloud to one another.  Tonight, we started with Treasure Island.
  • Let the kids invite friends over to spend the evening watching DVDs and eating snacks.
  • Teach the kids how to make a favorite food.  My wife spent time this evening teaching Middle how to make egg salad from start to finish.  The other day, Eldest made brownies while I cut up fruit.
  • Take one or more kids on a bike ride around the neighborhood to familiarize them with road rules for bicycles.
  • Wrestle in the grass.
  • Shoot basketball.
  • Watch different TV shows on different nights.  I’ve come to enjoy Pawn Stars and American Pickers while my wife and several of the kids gather around any Food Network show.
  • Explain where babies come from and how women don’t have to sit on their eggs after they’re fertilized.
  • Give a probie slap to the child who told Youngest that women have to sit on their fertilized eggs in order for the babies to hatch.
  • Take a walk with the family and dog, not forgetting the plastic grocery bag for dog poop.
  • Give a probie slap to the child who told Youngest that when people recycle their plastic grocery bags, they’re all filled with dog poop.

We’re not going cold turkey with spending since we still got a few books from Borders and took a recent trip, but we are emphasizing that things don’t have to have a price tag attached to be enjoyable.  And we’ll continue to deleverage despite what the economists and officials say.

And I’ll also continue to pass the time probie-slapping a certain child who thrives on disinformation.